Sunday, November 25, 2012

All I want for Christmas

Every year my very large family does a Christmas Exchange. The day after Thanksgiving, a non-interested party (MOM) puts a slip of paper with everyone's name into a "hat," then everyone present pulls out a name. If anyone is not present, usually me and my husband, she pulls a slip for us, and secretly calls to tell us who we have.

For the next few weeks, my siblings obsessively ask furtive questions while trying to hide who they have to buy a present for. Sometimes it's obvious: I'll get a text from Pete saying, what size shirt is Kevin? Sometimes people try to be sneaky, and ask multiple people for details about two or three people, trying to throw off anyone who might be trying to collect info and make a master chart to see who has who.
And one can never know who is a good gift giver and who is a dud gift giver. Pete has no job, but he will save up his allowance for weeks to buy someone an awesome present. Andrew is still a grad student, and he will probably buy you a pack of gum on Christmas Eve with a card. Everyone knows my present has to fit in a carry on, so it's probably not a bottle of wine.

So, for my siblings, whoever has me (including you, Kevin) HERE'S WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS:

  • A Cocoon GRID-IT!: I got one of these for my husband a while ago, and now I want some of my own to throw things into my backpack.
  • New Yoga Pants: Prana or Lululemon. Because they look better than sweatpants, and I can therefore wear them outside. 
  • Compression Calf Sleeves: Preferably in pink. 
  • A custom Sweatyband just for meeee! Maybe something pink, or shiny, with monogram, and velvety, or my many choices. 

Also, here are a few things that I think are great stocking stuffers (most of this I already have):

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I'm near Charlotte with my husband's family, and enjoying the beautiful weather. No turkey trot for me this year, just time to sleep in after family still on San Diego time kept us up late!
Definitely a Starbucks morning for me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

End of November Update

Well, this week certainly has been a trip. I took the week off work because my husband and I are moving into our new house, and also I wanted a little downtime after all the crazy stuff going on at work. A week of no running was nice too, but all the lifting of boxes and moving things around has been tiring. At least I'm all caught up on my sleep!

Moving has been crazy! We weren't able to move in Tuesday, like we planned, since closing got moved to Thursday. Unfortunately, Thursday is also the day I had to be cleared out of my apartment. We had one load of boxes ready to go that day, but with all the large furniture, we still had two more to go. As if it weren't enough trying to move everything we owned in one night, the living of my apartment flooded in the middle of moving! Apparently the neighbor's washer broke, and he wasn't home to turn it off, so there was a lot of damage. But, we are finally in our new home, not quite unpacked, but slowly getting there. The first night we had no water and no gas, so definitely no hot water, but things have been slowly improving. Water is on, power is on, gas should be on Monday, hopefully, and our refrigerator and new washer and dryer should be coming Monday as well.

In other news, the lottery for the Nike Women's Marathon Half Washington, DC (apparently that's what they're calling it) opened this week. Unfortunately, they don't allow transfers, which I think is dumb, so it's hard to plan for multiple people to go and meet up. But it sounds like fun, so hopefully I get in! Lottery also opens soon for the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, also in DC.

My husband and I are also starting to plan our trip to DisneyWorld for the Princess Half Marathon in February! I LOVE DisneyWorld! I managed to convince my husband to register for it with me by saying he won't have to run fast. He's not much of a distance sort of guy.

I also promised an afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian, which is pretty much my favorite thing at Disney. This happened to be the first afternoon tea I made my husband go to with me, and he wasn't completely sold on the idea of a tea party, but after getting the Prince Charming tea, with it's mini charcuterie and a glass of port, as well as his own pot of tea with a velvety tea cozy, he was sold. Now most of our trips involve finding a new place for afternoon tea, the perfect way to rest and recharge after a long day. Some of our favorites have been the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, DC, and, of course, The Plaza, in New York City.

Back to the grind, sort of, this week at work, but Thursday is Thanksgiving! Time to give thanks for all the great things I've been able to do and see this year!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Day After: Richmond Marathon

This is probably one of the days I was dreading most. I once ran a half marathon with almost no training, and it took me ten minutes to get out of bed the next morning. After shuffling around Richmond following the marathon, I had a feeling the next morning would be even worse. I took every precaution I could, assisted by Sally, who was under strict orders to not let me pass out too soon following the race. I iced my legs, stretched, ate protein and carbs after the race, rehydrated thoroughly, stretched some more, took ibuprofen, and realized I forgot to bring my foam roller. I even double checked my post-race massage appointment for Monday, just to be sure it was still on my calendar.

Sunday morning, though, I woke up at 7:30, and lied there, waiting for my legs to start crying at me. But it didn't happen. I moved them around. Knees were a little creaky, but everything else seemed ok. Tricksy legs. I decided to fall back asleep and see what would happen later, maybe the soreness just hadn't woken up yet.

About an hour later, I sat up again, and reached for my toes. Nothing seemed off, except for the above-mentioned knees being a little stiff and creaky. I gingerly stepped onto the floor, and did not fall over. Everything seemed normal. I stretched out a little more, walked downstairs for breakfast, and fueled up to seize the day.

Thankfully, Veteran's Day was great. Sally and I went to the Virginia War Memorial, which has the names of all Virginians who have died in war engraved around an eternal flame, with a statue titled Memory keeping watch:

After paying our respects, we went to the Valentine Richmond History Center to learn a little more about the history of Richmond. We toured the Wickham House (no, it does not belong to anyone from Pride and Prejudice) and several of the exhibits, with lots of pictures and artifacts from Richmond Past.

On the Pride and Prejudice note, I'm currently reading All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Smith. It follows her journey through six South American countries leading reading groups about Jane Austen. I just left off after finishing A Feast For Crows, the fourth book in A Song of Ice and Sword. Only one more to go, but I just couldn't make myself start another 1,000-page book. My trusty Nook is saving it for later.

Later Sunday, I threw everything into my duffel and headed back to the Richmond Airport for my flight home. I have proof that the TSA doesn't really care: I made it through security with several GUs, my medal, and a large space blanket in my bag without getting searched. A short flight later, I was back in Atlanta and ready to drive home.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Running it: The Richmond Marathon

Saturday, November 10, 2013, came bright and early. My race-day bag was packed, Sally was awake to drive me, and I was so not worried about anything. I remembered my arm warmers, remembering the lessons from the Army Ten Miler, and had on my black H&M running capris and super cute tank. My trusty shoes were laced up, and flip flops were in my bag. I had four chocolate GU gels and my ipod in my fuelbelt. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing a few deep breaths couldn't handle.

Even though Sally and I had looked at the list of road closures the night before, we still got lost trying to find the start line, and I ended up walking a few blocks through downtown Richmond while Sally headed back home to pick up her husband and meet me at the finish line. I got to the starting area just in time to see the Half Marathon start, and wandered around watching people for a bit. I jumped in line for a portapotty at the last minute, but there were so many, the wait was only a few minutes. Of course, I still got stuck by the National Anthem, and almost lost my place in line by a less-patriotic person trying to cut me. 

Finally, however, it started. The gun went off, Gangam Style started blaring, and we were off. I remembered my first half marathon a few years ago, and that gut feeling at the start that said, "what have you gotten yourself into?" Once you take that first step, though, all you can do is move forward. 

The Richmond Marathon has one of the most beautiful courses I have ever run. Not only did it include all of the major landmarks in Richmond (Monument Avenue, the James River, the cute little historic homes) but the fall colors were out, the sun was at our back for most of the race, and the weather was amazingly perfect. The course overall was pretty flat. I don't recall any major hills, except for one very tiny incline around the 10k mark, so it seemed pretty easy.I had heard from friends about marathons that get boring after mile 15, but this one just got better. There were no dull spots, no lapses in support, and it seemed to only get better at the end. There is absolutely nothing negative to be said about this marathon.

 A word on course support: Richmond calls itself America's Friendliest Marathon, and I am inclined to agree. People were out all over the course, either in the designated "Party Zones" or just out in front of their houses and churches, cheering us on. There were tons of volunteers at every water station, handing out water and powerade and gels. The two junk food stops were great too; I never enjoyed a sip of Coke more in my life than at mile 15. Or was it 14? I don't even remember. 

My race went about as well as I expected. The first 15 miles felt great, I thought maybe I would finish it a reasonable time despite the knee problems, but by 16, my inner demons kicked in. I started wondering not only why I had started this, but if I even wanted to finish. Every mile dragged on longer and longer. I hit mile 20 at 4:00 flat, and kicked myself into a happier frame of mind. Of course I was going to finish this!! All I had to do was propel myself forward. People started passing me, but I was in my zone, walking and taking it easy while every step seemed to make my feet hurt more and more. I knew stopping would make me feel every ache in my legs, so I kept going, feeling like my feet were going to start oozing out of my shoes. My the time I reached the downhill into the finish chute, I knew I must have set a new time record for slowest end-10k of a marathon ever. Yep. The last 6.2 miles took me 1:50, almost twice the 0:59 I had completed the first 10k in. But I was done!!! 

Sally and her husband had been waiting in the finish area for almost those two hours, waiting and wondering if I was ok. I love my best friends, and I love them even more when they bring me flip flops when I want to die. This is my "I want to die but I think I'm going to make it!" finishing picture: 

After water, a bagel, a green banana, and snagging several bags of ice from the med tent, I schelpped everything a good half a mile to where Sally parked. My big post-race meal? Rockefeller Pizza at Bottoms Up!! Thin crust, gruyere cheese, smoked oysters, spinach.....delicious. And, of course, next up some Carytown Cupcakes!! By the time we got back to Sally's, I collapsed into bed without even showering. Gross, I know, and I woke up with enough salt on my face that I smelled it on the pillow that night. Walking to the shower was painful, walking downstairs to dinner was painful, and stretching before bed was also rather painful. You know that frankenstein walk? I didn't even need to wear my medal to dinner that night for people to know that yes, I just ran a marathon. I wore it anyway, though, just in case someone asked. Here's what it looked like!

Getting There: The Richmond Marathon

Earlier this year, I decided that this would be the year I finish a full marathon. Half marathons are fun, but they stopped being a challenge when I was running ten miles every weekend just for fun. A full, however, was definitely a challenge I was ready to accept.

After doing some research, deciding on a reasonable time frame, and consulting with my former college roommate Sally, I registered for the Anthem Richmond Marathon, scheduled for November 10, 2012. The Richmond Marathon is "America's Friendliest Marathon," it was over a 4-day holiday weekend, I could stay with Sally, and plane tickets from Atlanta were less than $100 round trip. Excellent.

I began training in July, and, knowing that I would still have to work long days, decided on a relatively fool proof plan that focused on one day of sprints, one tempo run, and one long run a week. The other days were shorter runs, swimming, or biking. I was also planning on doing two triathlons, one in July and one in September, to help with crosstraining.

For the first few weeks, my plan worked great. I still went to regular PT with my unit every morning at 0630, swam at lunch every few days, and fit in long runs on the weekends. I ran a lot on the Greeneway in North Augusta, South Carolina, since it was shaded from the 100-degree days and had water fountains every few miles. By the time I started hitting 14 miles runs, though, is when my knee started hurting.

As I wrote before, I still am not entirely sure what's up with this bum knee of mine. I just know that running slow and long is fine, running short and fast results in pain and swelling, and the last few weeks of physical therapy, involving such fun exercises as standing one legged on a foam pad and doing lunges on a bosu ball, seem to be helping. My training topped out at about 16 miles, though, and runs of 8 miles or so replaced the sprint workouts I had planned.

The week before my race was pretty much the week from hell. I was working over time every day planning a number of events for my unit, including the annual Dining In, a formal dinner on Thursday, the night before I was supposed to leave. As if that weren't enough, I have also been busy packing and preparing to move into a new house my husband and I just bought here in Augusta. I was so busy, in fact, that on Thursday I almost forgot to check in for my flight until Sally texted me asking when I would arrive the next day. Thank you, phone.

Thursday night I didn't get home until after Midnight, after spending a good 8 hours in sensible heels and panty hose that left a nice little blister on my foot. I laid out most of what I planned on wearing for the race, threw it and a few sweaters in my handy dandy super large Vera Bradley duffel bag, set my alarm for 6:00am, and fell asleep. Thankfully I remembered to charge my ipod AND throw it in my bag the next morning as I was leaving.

Apparently I didn't learn anything from my Army Ten Miler packing, though, because, as I settled into the plane, I remembered things I had forgotten to pack. Such as my watch. And race belt. And an extra pair of socks. And my travel pillow. Good thing I had 8 pairs of underwear, though! And my bodyglide, which I had forgotten for the DC trip.

Thankfully, though, I was upgraded again (see?! Airtran!) and fell asleep all the way from Atlanta to Richmond. When Sally picked me up at noon, we headed straight to Can-Can in Carytown, for appropriate "carb-loading." You know, lobster macaroni and cheese:

Sally and I left her husband playing poker early that night, and headed to bed. Even with a 8:00am start (why don't all races start at such a reasonable hour?) we wanted to make sure to have plenty of time in the morning. I set my alarm for 4:00am to get up and eat something with time to digest before the starting line, but I think we all know that didn't work out. 

Army Ten Miler

The first race that I successfully completed this HY (that's Hannah Year, virtually the same as a Fiscal Year, since it runs from 1 October to 30 September) is the Army Ten Miler in Washington, DC, on October 21. I signed up for this one the very first day registration was open for active duty military, and so did my other friend Hannah (no, we are not related. But people still ask.)

This race has been on my list because, well, I'm in the Army. I'm a Signal Officer, stationed here in Augusta, GA. The Army Ten Miler is a big opportunity for servicemembers from all over the world to come together and run. A lot of posts sponsor running teams, who run in the team division, and they are good. The Army's World Class Athlete Program also sends athletes, who are also very good.

I'm not a very good runner, so I went it with minimal expectations as far as PRing. In addition, I worked 12 hour shifts, switching between night shift and day shifts, for the four weeks prior to this weekend, so, needless to say, my training was minimal for the last few weeks leading into this. And by minimal, I mean, I did half of a P90X video maybe every other day before falling asleep on my couch. Not much running.

 I actually hurt my knee in late September anyway, and was in a debate with my doctor over which was more painful: long slow runs, or short fast runs. I contended that the long slow runs were less painful and resulted in less swelling, but my doctor was convinced that short runs would be better, even though a short, fast, one mile run was enough to break me off for two days after. Needless to say, I decided that ten miles pretty slow should be fine.

The trip to Washington, DC, was going to be fast, quick, and to the point. Because my unit has been in the middle of exercises, I wanted to stick to just the weekend, rather than asking for a four-day weekend. I got plane tickets from Charlotte, NC, to Baltimore-Washington International with a departure Saturday morning and return Sunday night. Charlotte is a little over 2 hours from Augusta, but to me, flying on Airtran consistently is worth the drive. Flights out of the Augusta regional airport require a stop in Charlotte or Atlanta anyway, so I was just skipping an extra flight and saving a few dollars.

The night before I left, I made the decision to pack just my backpack for this trip. I laid out my race outfit, an emergency pair of extra running shorts/pajamas, my running shoes, and a few extra t-shirts, threw some toiletries in a plastic bag and grabbed the emergency makeup kit from my gym bag, and decided that should be good enough.

I got up very early (ahem, 5:30am) Saturday, and started the drive to Charlotte. Quite possibly the only memorable parts of the drive were a) listening to the Newsies Broadway soundtrack and b) seeing a deer Ranger-roll across four lanes of highway. I got to the airport with plenty of time before my flight, sped through the TSA PreCheck Lane (best thing TSA has ever done!! No taking shoes off for active military, cause we probably are't going to blow up the plane!) and grabbed some coffee. As I was settling in to wait for boarding, my investment in loyalty to Airtran paid off and I got upgraded to Business Class for my flight to BWI. And, surprise surprise, the in-flight magazine had a picture of my college town on the front!!

The plushy, wide business class seat and extra leg room were quickly wasted on my extra-short legs since I can freely swing my legs even in regular airplane seats and I fell asleep almost as soon as the plane took off. By the time we landed at BWI, however, I had adjusted the apps on my phone, checked my bib number, and was ready to hit the Expo! 

After picking up my bib and race t-shirt (long sleeve cotton, btw), buying a new sweatyband (one of those things I remembered forgetting as I settled into my seat on the plane), I headed towards the National Mall.

To me, nothing is more inspiring than just sitting on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and enjoying the view. No matter where you look, there is something that makes me smile. I love museums, but, since I was meeting up with the other Hannah, I refrained from going in to any, knowing I would get sucked in until closing. I navigated the under-construction metro, and headed toward Maryland to meet up with Hannah and her family for dinner. I was still carrying my one backpack, but everything seemed fine. 
I stayed with Hannah at her parents' home in Maryland, and we went to bed as soon as possible, due to a very early wake up. By 5 we were in the car and headed back towards downtown DC to get on the Metro and head towards to the Pentagon. We could already see volunteers setting up water stations, and got a little bit of a feel for the route around the Mall area. 
The weather was cold. I waited until almost the last second to turn in my cozy sweater at bag check, and then started praying for the run to start so I could warm up. 
Oh, and another thing. During the week, I had been working in an old warehouse, and my Friday afternoon, my eyes had completely swollen up from all the dust that I couldn't wear my contacts. I had to run the Ten Miler in glasses. No sunglasses, and no way to keep them on my face. Boo. Once the race did finally start, I ended up holding my glasses for most of the run, and putting them on just enough at the water stations to be able to see the mile marker, clock, and grab a drink without running into anyone. 
Unfortunately, I did miss a lot of the details of running through DC. The whole race, however, was amazing. Seeing everyone else running, as well as all the people cheering and volunteering, was worth the whole thing. The race route goes by the Pentagon, through Arlington, over the Potomac, around the mall, past Watergate and the JFK Center, down the other side of the Mall, and down Ohio Ave. I bet it all looked gorgeous. I finished right at 1:40, a ten minute mile, which seemed just fine to me. As I said, not exactly going for a PR here.
After the finish line, where you get your finisher's coin (an Army tradition-many units and high ranking people make commemorative coins to hand out to people for an outstanding accomplishment), you then go into the Hooah Zone, with tents from units and organizations all over the world. The USO is there, of course, with drinks and bananas, and the Commissary Agency also has free food. You can wander around to see reps from different units handing out swag, and meet up with friends. Here's a pic of my bib and the finisher's coin for this year:

The rest of the day was a complete whirlwind, grabbing brunch with Hannah after, showering, re-packing, and then heading to the airport for my flight back. I got home at almost midnight that night, and fell asleep in bed with ice packs on my knees. Sorry, husband. 


My name is Hannah, and I just turned 24. Well, not too recently, my birthday is September 30, but I finally decided on what I want to do before I turn 25.

I want to run all those fun races that I have always wanted to do, but haven't done. No more excuses.

Racing to 25 is about me setting goals, making plans, traveling, discovering, running, swimming, biking, and sharing it all with my best friends.

Here's my list so far, but I'm sure I'll have to adjust it:

- Army Ten Miler in Washington, DC
- Richmond Marathon
- Disney Princess Half Marathon
- Iron Girl Triathlon in Atlanta
- Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in Washington, DC
- Augusta Half Ironman
- at least one Olympic-distance triathlon
- Virginia Beach Rock N' Roll Half Marathon
- San Diego Rock N' Roll Half/Full Marathon
- Nike Women's Half Marathon in Washington, DC

As you can see, I like DC. It's my favorite place on earth. I also love the beach, so any race on the beach, I am definitely game. Every one of these races has some sort of meaning for me personally, and I'll try my best to share that closer to race day.

Meanwhile, here we go!